Here you have it, the last post in the “Financing Study Abroad” multi-part series. Today let’s talk about one of the most important things you’ll need to know while abroad…how to effectively budget! Here are a few tips you’ll need to keep you on track with what works for you, personally.
1. Go over with Mom and Dad ahead of time what is covered in the program fee and what is not. This information can be found on the website and on the blog. Make sure everyone has an understanding about what you will be responsible for.
2. Decide which optional activities you’re interested in doing and how much they might cost. Most of these activities will not be available for purchase until you are already abroad, so you will need to have an idea of what you will be spending on your own without Mom and Dad (and make sure they’re on board). Some examples include skydiving, sandboarding, or surf lessons.
3. Plan out your meals. A strategy that I personally used while abroad was making a tentative menu at the beginning of each week. This way, I could have an idea at the beginning of every week how much money I would be spending (and how much I was able to spend). I would look at the Go Global itinerary and see which meals were going to be covered by the staff that week, and which meals I was responsible for on my own. Because reservations are important to make at many restaurants, I would usually know what my week looked like in terms of meals several days in advance. When shopping at the grocery store, I knew which meals were already covered (between group dinners, group breakfasts, provided bagged lunches, dinner reservations I’d already made, etc.), and which meals weren’t. Therefore, I knew what kinds of foods I would need to shop for to cover the rest of the meals. “Ok, Monday lunch is going to be on me, and I have no plans yet, I’m going to buy sandwich fixings.” And on that note…
4. When shopping at the grocery store, shop for a complete meal! Just as you would shop for a complete outfit at the mall. If you buy a bunch of this-and-that, you’ll waste money and food because you won’t be able to make anything with what you bought. Decide which meals you’ll be eating and when, and buy everything you need at the store to make that meal.
5. Decide with Mom and Dad ahead of time what an acceptable budget is that works for your family. Don’t take Mom and Dad by surprise. Make sure that you are in agreement with how much money is an acceptable amount to spend while abroad, so that you can budget with what you have!
6. Keep tabs on all of your accounts. Make sure you’re checking your bank accounts online. See how much money you’ve been spending so that you know how much you are able to spend (according to your budget) that day or that week.
7. Get creative with your activities. The activities on all of our trips are endless, and not all of them cost money! Plan out some free things that you can do with your friends. Take a walk on the beach. Watch a sunset. Go for a hike. Play a game of cards with other students. Read a book. Go for a run. Take a stroll through the gardens.
8. Team up with other students. Everyone feeling like they’ve been struggling with their budget? Get a group of students together and cook in an apartment instead of going to a nice restaurant. Split the cost of the groceries and have fun cooking together. Take a cab and go to McDonald’s (because let’s be honest — it’s a pretty awesome discovery for an American to find a Big Mac on the other side of the world). Share a bottle of wine on the beach instead of at a hoppin’ club. More than likely, most students on the trip will be trying to save money, too, so you can help each other and have fun along the way!
9. Stay in communication with Mom and Dad about the budget. Not only should you keep tabs while abroad on how much you’re spending, you should make sure Mom and Dad are keeping tabs on how much you’re spending, too. Keep the communication open so that everyone is on board!
10. Keep track of all of your cash. Checking your online banking is pretty easy, but don’t forget to know how much cash you have at all times. This includes cash in your wallet, the safe, the pocket of your pants. You could potentially pay for a whole meal in cash if you’re keeping track of it responsibly — no need to let your bank account get lower than you’re willing.
Budgeting abroad is all about open and constant communication, creativity, and responsibility! There are endless ways to make sure you stay on track, and it all starts with deciding what works for you.
Good luck! What are your tips about budgeting abroad?
-Anna and the Go Global team